People look for a lot of different things from the breed associations they belong to. Member benefits become such an issue of contention – on what they should be and whether they work – that often the really big picture gets lost. Every breed organization is focused on survival of the organization and continuance of the breed. An engaged membership base along with promotion is critical to this. What seems to get lost as groups scramble to please members, appeal to prospects, position the breed and respond to criticism, though, is the breed. One of the most important services breed organizations can provide for the world is a means to look back at where a horse came from (sire, dam, farm, experience) and try to help those interested replicate results.
There are some breed organizations, such as the AQHA (www.aqha.com), that have been very effective at promotion, education and a resulting growth in membership base and demand for the breed (maintaining or amending type standards for the benefit of the breed long-term is a topic for another discussion – and a different blogger). Many, though, struggle to simply survive. All, sans the Jockey Club (www.jockeyclub.com), seem to have lost sight of the fact that they are the keepers of the culture, so to speak.
Forgotten in the fray is the critical reason these organizations should exist – to provide clear, detailed, traceable, documented and easy to find and understand information on what to expect from the breed as evidenced by the progeny produced (and how and where to find them). Even the Jockey Club falls short here in their exclusive focus on racehorses. There are so many great Thoroughbred stallions (and mares) producing standout sport horses when crossed with other breeds. Sadly, it’s almost impossible to identify roots from any existing database or organization.
Of course, the breeders, sellers and buyers are at fault here too. So many go unregistered and a good number that have been papered are bought and sold without transferring the documentation of bloodlines, let alone the breed makeup. Years later, we find a mutt competing at FEI and Olympic levels, and the owners/riders can’t even identify the breed ingredients that created this champion.
Tomorrow’s winners are a product of today – and yesterday. Smart breed associations will follow the Jockey Club’s lead in making breed and bloodline details easily and readily available even for horses that do not arrive with papers (a tattoo number immediately identifies the TB horse and his background – at least from a racing perspective). Add to this a registry that details horse career activity (members love to talk about their horses – with today’s technology, any breed association could craft a way to capture pleasure, amateur and professional pursuits and accomplishments, and in so doing, the versatility and/or ideal activity for the breed) as a way to provide solid facts to support promotional claims. Equally important is an educational campaign directed at professionals alerting them to the importance encouraging practices that identify breed contributions early on to ensure future champion bloodlines are documented. This cocktail provides a great foundation for arguing a breed’s importance and penchant.
The majority of members in breed organizations want to be educated, entertained, informed and included. In crafting a strategy for breed appeal and continuance, though, it’s the best of the breed (and the breeders) that can make this so. Armed with the right information and support from their breed organization, this small segment of folks can create the demand while offering resources for the breed organization to easily handle the rest. Without a means to share and broadcast critical breed accomplishments, however, they are powerless to help move the breed, and breed association, to new heights. Savvy breed associations will recognize how critical this ideal is for continuance and prosperity. Smart breeders of quality horses will succeed with our without help from an organization.
Who needs horse breed associations? All those who seek help in finding quality and suitable horses. Will the organization leaders get it? The jury is still out on this one, but those determined to thrive in the future will realize it’s not about today, but instead, what is done today to document tomorrow.
P.S. Thanks to Cheryl Anderson for the inspiration on this blog post. (Note that she is not responsible for, or necessarily in agreement with, the opinions expressed).